Selectmen praise public works union for concessions in new contract

by susan on March 14, 2013

The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night voted unanimously to ratify a new 3-year contract for the town’s public works employees. It’s a contract Chairman John Rooney characterized as a “tremendously beneficial” one for the town.

Rooney said the union agreed to changes in their health care plan that will save both the town and the employees money. Public works employees will see lower premiums under the plan, and the town will implement new benefits programs such as flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement accounts, and an opt-out program.

Changes to the health insurance plan will also result in the reduction of post-employment benefit liabilities equating to $850K, Rooney said.

Under the agreement, all employees will receive a cost of living salary adjustment of 0.5% during the first year of the contract, and no cost of living adjustment during the subsequent two years. Some employees will also receive 2% step increases.

Voters at town meeting next month will be asked to fund the first year of the contract at a cost of $17,450, which works out to a payment of $3.91 for the average taxpayer.

Rooney said concessions were made on both sides, and he praised Town Administrator Mark Purple and the union for reaching a “fair and equitable” deal.

“I congratulate the public works union for coming to the table early, for their ability to appreciate and understand the fiscal situation of the town, and for their willingness to make concessions,” Rooney said.

The public works contract is one of four municipal union contracts set to expire at the end of the fiscal year, and the first to be ratified. The town is also negotiating with the police and fire unions. The fourth contract set to expire is the clerical union, but Rooney announced this week members have filed with the Labor Relations Board to decertify their union. A ballot vote of union members is expected sometime this spring.

Teachers are in the second year of a 3-year contract. Rooney told the K-8 School Committee, which attended a portion of the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, that negotiations being conducted this year with the municipal unions should serve as a model for negotiations that will happen next year with the teachers union.

“I think it is very, very important that the financial condition of the town have a prime role in those discussions,” Rooney told school committee members. “We need to slow down the rate of increases that have historically been given. The town is setting an example with the negotiations going on now.”

{ 5 comments }

1 Frank Crowell March 14, 2013 at 4:08 PM

“Under the agreement, all employees will receive a cost of living salary adjustment of 0.5% during the first year of the contract, and no cost of living adjustment during the subsequent two years. Some employees will also receive 2% step increases.”

I wonder what the chances of getting this type of agreement from the teacher’s union is? Of course we all know the answer. There are always a chance to be shocked, but I am not counting on it.

2 lawnboy March 15, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Good luck to the town. The teachers rule the roost, the other unions should unite and ride the teachers backs.

3 southsider March 15, 2013 at 6:03 PM

The union gives up $850,000 in future benefits in return for raises of 0.5, 0 and 0 over 3 years? There must be more to this story.

4 PM March 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM

My understanding is that the salary chart has steps on it related to years of service. Each year you move up a step and get the increase of 2%. If you are at the top step then you do not receive an increase except for the cost-of-living increase. So, those not on the top step are still getting a 2% increase.

As for the $850,000 savings, this may be related to switching to a state public employees health plan (GIC). It realizes big savings to the towns without really reducing the health insurance provided. The town can do it without union approval so it’s not as though there is any choice by the union. (I may be wrong on this, but it seems to be what other towns have done with their teachers’ insurance plans).

5 michael fuce March 16, 2013 at 9:32 AM

I really appreciate the fire, police, DPW, BUT, a clerical union? Am I missing something here? Are you kidding me? And lawnboy is correct in saying good luck trying to get the teahcers union to have real consecions. Why would lawboy then say “ride their back”? Do you not know this payment system is unsustainable and parents are irresponsible in supporting it? A real good solution folks is to boot all the unions one at a time, and have our town employees work directly with us. I believe the better will stay, make more money, and stop giving the unions yuor hard earned dough. If it fails, they can always unionize again, but honestly my feeling is you will make out better in the long run and not destroy the town who can not possibly keep raising taxes on our most vulnerable, seniors and the low income families and children. I told my son the other day, concerning the schools, and the high school in particular, we are paying fees for activity, sports, parking, graduation, the list goes on et… That really hurts many families and kids who can not participate. They say they have “scholarships”, but these good people don’t want to beg. They have already paid their taxes. So I told my son, I believe this system is actually illegal. Public school is by law “free”. Perhaps a concerned attorney could perfrom some quid pro quo (sp)work? As I have siad before, the parents of kids in school have an “alert” system so that when the school budget comes to vote at town meeting (I am on it), all the kiddies parents show up. I suggest the other 75% of tax payers in Southborough start an email and text data base to alert the folks who want to say NO to the unions to then show up right on time for the schools budget vote. What do you say to that old fashioned democracy?

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